Wednesday, November 18, 2015

The Lonestar revisited

"Desert Star"   78" x 86"
Hand quilted
Years ago I went on a retreat where I learned how to make the classic Lonestar quilt. We visit Arizona each year so I chose a southwest theme.

Here's the finished queen sized quilt. The very simple graphic result does involve a bit more complex piecing; working with diamond shapes and then setting in the corner squares and side triangles.
I got very excited about working with this design...and I went a little crazy!

I wanted to try different sized diamonds and other color combinations. I worked up a class which I taught both in Minnesota and Arizona.
I made three samples for that class; 30 inches square. This one is currently being quilted - you can see my pins. I'll use it on a wall or as a table topper.
Sample 1
The rest are still tops waiting to learn their fate. The patriotic themes may serve as centers for a larger quilt.
Sample 2
Sample 3
This size was doable for the students in the number of sessions we had, allowing them to get to the 'setting-in' part with guidance. That seems to be where many quilters abandon the design.

Here is one such top in progress... probably made around 1900 by the look of the fabrics. This is a 6 pointed star (which you see less often than the 8 point) but the construction and the challenges are similar.

I show it lying on the carpet and then lying atop a piece of blue fabric as a possible idea for finishing it -- someday--maybe.

I made a mini with scraps from the big one.
10" x 13"
Then I took a few Christmas fabrics I had on hand for yet another size - and made up 10 blocks, each different due the placement of the fabrics. It was fun ...but the stars ended up in UFO tub.
That was 2002!
Fast forward to last month. A quilting friend asked us to bring something to the December meeting that was holiday themed - that was unfinished - and that we wanted to finish. She'd come across a pillow she'd started years ago and was determined to finish it.
The pile of pieced stars

Those star blocks had been on my 'to-do' list for years! Her challenge came at just the right time for me.
Out came the blocks.
Out came the folder from my class with the tips for cutting the setting squares and triangles.

A shopping trip resulted in a fabric I thought would be perfect for background.
A Kay England print
I got busy cutting out the needed corner squares and side triangles and setting them in. 

The finished blocks measure 18" square. Here are 4 of them.

 Today I'll finish the rest and begin deciding on how to set them. 
Shall I use all 10 or go with just 9 - an easy 3 by 3 setting?
Maybe a narrow sashing?
Or 'on-point'?

 Stay tuned!
I promise is won't be 13 years!

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Facing Winter

My last post looks rather ridiculous now; butterflies in November! Winter is closing in on Minnesota but fall lingers a bit, a day here and a day there, and today was one of those 'fallish' days. Sunny, with a light breeze - we made it into the 60's.
I got up intending to do some machine quilting on a small quilt; finish it maybe. But suddenly I had the urge to take advantage of the nice day and wash a vintage quilt.

I bought this in Arizona a few years ago. The simple arrangement of nine- patch blocks grouped into a larger four-patch appeals to me. Was the wide double pink sashing with intersections of a 4 patch done to enlarge the quilt? Did she happen to have a nice chunk of that pink?

An assortment of fabrics from the early 1900's includes mourning prints, double pinks - lots of that in the wide sashing - several chambrays, stripes and indigo from light to dark. Notice the swastika print shirting.  This would indicate it being made before WWII when that symbol took on such negative connotations.

The sashing within the 4 patch is an unusual blue print that feels like a soft wool challis. The batting may be wool, too. It has that sort of 'slippery' feeling when you rub the layers together as opposed to cotton which just doesn't move at all. There are no holes or openings so I can only guess about that but it I have 'sleep tested' this one and it feels like wool. Lightweight but instant warmth.

Hand quilted in an overall diagonal grid about 1"

It didn't seem particularly dirty but, after all, it's over 100 years old so why not freshen it up?
I used my top-loading machine leaving the lid up and doing the agitating with my own hands, gently. I laid it outside with large sheets under and over it.
(I took the sheet off for the photo!)

I enjoy close study of my old quilts. On this one did you notice in the full view that two sides have an extra strip of pink?

And especially intriguing is this blue square in one corner. Did she really run out of that pink? Or did she mark a corner so that she could more easily rotate the quilt for even wear?

The backing is plain cotton muslin

  It turned out beautifully! As always, the quilting design is enhanced and...
it smells like sunshine.

Sweet Dreams!

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Butterflies- Signs of Hope

18" x 22"
I needed another project like a hole in the head when I spied this sweet little thing in Lori Smith's booth at the Minnesota Quilt Show a year ago.
It's hand appliqued, embroidered and quilted.
Both vintage and 1930's reproduction fabrics are used. The lavender sashing is also vintage.

That's the good news.

I started doing some larger butterfly blocks years ago. (Are you noticing anything here? I have many projects that span many years!)
At the time, I wanted to learn how to do needle-turn applique. I found two butterfly designs I liked and did some of each in vintage fabric; some feedsack - some not. Here are a few lying side by side on the floor,

The typical way of finishing these popular quilts in the 30's and 40's was with a black buttonhole stitch embroidered around them, That's when I  realized that  my invisible applique would not show at all!

I did improve my 'needle-turn" skills, though.

As a quilt appraiser for over ten years, I saw a few different methods used to embellish applique motifs with embroidery. Sometimes a simple running stitch by hand or machine was used to secure the motif before embroidery. I didn't find that it detracted from the piece. You had to look very closely to even see it. Was it a time saver? I'm not so sure. Maybe getting that little edge turned under to nail it down by machine would take a bit of time.
Some were finished 'raw edge'. Quick and easy but embroidery thread is not terribly strong. Over time, with wear and washing, it would start to come loose leaving the applique 'unattached' and the quilt unattractive and fragile. Done for, in other words, unless someone wanted to do a lot of repair work.

For the raw edge method to work well, one would have to place those buttonhole stitches very close together as was done in the Broderie Perse examples on early cut-out chintz motifs. Even then, as you can see in this vintage example of closely spaced embroidery, there is the risk of the motif coming loose over time. This maker used a 'chain' stitch around each motif.

So I am glad I appliqued mine by hand. I did get more skilled in that method and one hundred years from now those butterflies should still be secure!

Butterflies appeared on many quilts during the Depression years. They signify hope -  much needed during that time. In spite of, or perhaps because of, the bleak circumstances of the time women made a tremendous effort to provide a cheerful home. Many quilts of the era are pastel, cheerful looking things to lift the spirits.

Here's an exceptional example from the collection of the International Quilt Study Center and Museum dated c. 1920-1940.


I was amazed upon searching Pinterest and other sources to find a tremendous variety of styles from simple to complex; pieced, appliqued and even this one - made with a vintage handkerchief.

 Simple Applique

Simple  Pieced

Complex Pieced

 Paper- Pieced

 All Hexagons!

I have a total of 20 blocks done at this time. My records show that I started them, OMG, the summer of '97. ( I have no shame. I hope my sharing makes you feel better about some of your UFO's!)
Sometimes delays result in a chance to revise the original plan. I suppose I was aiming for a bed quilt but now I think I will work up setting that requires exactly 20 blocks and call it a day.

 It's time, don't you think?

Have you made a butterfly quilt? Do you own a vintage example?

Monday, August 3, 2015

Mariner's Compass - DONE!

Drum Roll, please!
 This is it! The 5th and last entry on this 'long-term' project, first shared with you in 2011. I've put links below if you want the full background before reading the finale!

You may recall that I purchased the packet of reproduction fabrics, c. 1840, in 2007. They sat in lovely stacks for a few years before being put to use!

I made a concerted effort to stick with the hand quilting over the winter and that made a big difference. I set a goal to have it done this year; to use it on my bed this fall.  Or else!

I had decided early on that I would put my name on the front of the quilt. The two outermost bottom corner 6" blocks are plain with that in mind.
Deciding how I wanted to do that took some time but I'm happy that I didn't rush it. I wanted it to be just the right thing.

I knew I wanted to repeat the circle of the central Mariner's Compass and small blue circles in the corners of the checkerboard, seen in the view above.

                       I found this design in Antique Quilting Designs by Roberta Benvin.

It was used as the center quilting motif in a feathered wreath on the plain setting blocks of a c. 1840 Double Nine Patch quilt; a circle and the required four places defined to embroider my information. 
 That fit well with the date of the reproduction fabric I used as well as the frame style layout.


I enlarged the design and slipped it under the corner over a light box to trace.

I combined embroidery with complimentary quilting.  I used double strand blue thread for the chain-stitched circle and to outline leaf shapes.

 The data itself required using a single thread.

The label on the back contains a few more details but the basics are on the front for all to see. I don't want someone have to 'discover' it by accident in 100 years....or  worse yet, NOT discover it!

At last I was ready for the  final step. Binding.

I had run out of the mottled neutral background which probably would have been my choice if I'd had enough so I'd been carrying around a piece to get a good coordinating tone. I wanted the binding to be understated letting the sharp triangle 'pennants' stand out.

I found a large print that had the right 'tone' and I thought it would work when folded 'skinny' and be interesting. I made yards and yards of it, starting sewing it on and didn't like it.

 Rip. Rip. Rip.

I didn't want to get stuck this close to the end! Luckily, a fabric that came with the original fabric line worked and I had enough of it.

The last few stitches - Had to record them!



Size:86" W x 94" L
Hours to hand quilt: 140
Batt: wool
Original Design

I hope you are all well and enjoying your quilting adventures. I have been AWOL from writing this blog for some time and hope to be much more regular now. I have acquired quite a few new 'old' quilts I'd like to share with you and have finished lots of smaller projects, too.

 Please check back and send your comments to keep me honest.